Provost's Update - April 6, 2020

Effective Operations

Institutional Priority #4

Institutional Effectiveness

Provost's Email to the Division of Academic and Student Affairs:

Good afternoon, everyone:

I hope everyone had a few moments over the weekend to enjoy the warmer weather and perhaps spend some time outside in the fresh air. The thought that Spring is taking hold does bring some level of optimism and energy as we make the push through the final weeks of the Winter 2020 semester.

Today’s email update contains information about:

  • Comments and Thanks
  • EMU Undergraduate Symposium Social Media Highlights
  • Finishing the Winter Semester
  • University-Wide Policy Adjustments
  • Degree Conferrals for April
  • Updated Guidance for Student Worker Supervisors
  • Preparing for Summer 2020
  • Faculty Development Center and Center for E-Learning Resources
  • Faculty/Lecturer Teaching Evaluations
  • Canceled Conferences and Faculty Evaluation Portfolios
  • FRF/Sabbatical Process
  • Outgoing Voice and Email Messaging for Campus Offices
  • Building Access Restrictions
  • No Book Drop-Off at Halle Library
  • Final Comments

Comments and Thanks

Over the weekend, Mitch Albom published a column about a young Haitian boy who is living with him and his wife as the boy seeks medical treatment in the United States. They are now “staying home” together a good deal of the time, like many of us. One line in the column resonated for me so I am sharing it today - “We are so grateful. And feeling gratitude during a crisis is the beginning of resetting your compass.

We have many thanks to give this week. Today I want to take a moment to applaud our Housing and Dining staff who continue to adapt to what seem like never-ending new requests, working parameters, and pressing needs from on and off campus. They continue to represent EMU and what we stand for so well through their focus on student needs, community support, cooperative and constructive outlook, doing more with less and most of all through their work ethic. From moving 1,000 students off campus in just a few days, to figuring out how to provide a restful place for local health care providers, to keeping everyone safe and well taken care of in a sea of quickly unfolding changes, they just simply have gotten the work done that needs to be done to support our campus community. Thanks to them today!

I also want to thank Ellen Gold, our Dean of Students and Assistant Vice President for Student Well Being and all of the offices in Student Affairs that she has called on to assist her work over the past few weeks. She has personally been a point person for our students, for local health care officials and for all of us in Academic and Student Affairs over these past few weeks on issues related to COVID19 diagnoses, related policies and procedures, student needs and support processes. We are lucky to have a leader at EMU who works with such a calm, compassionate, and reasoned approach to what can be anxiety and emotion packed issues and topics for us all. The student affairs support teams have also all been flexible and creative in getting programming to students who call on them every day.

And finally, I continue to marvel at the changes you each are making in your teaching, your programming and student support efforts, your office work processes, your committee assignments and advising. Gratitude in a crisis is just the beginning of resetting the compass for where we want to go. Thank you.

EMU Undergraduate Symposium Social Media Highlights

I wanted to make you aware of our Undergraduate Symposium social media highlights. I’m sure you, like me, were sad at missing what would have been the 40th iteration of EMU’s signature undergraduate research event. So now we get to see some of the great work that would have been presented there via social media. The posts began on Friday, March 27th (the day the 40th event was to occur) and will continue to go out over the coming weeks. This optional outlet for students to share their work is still available. There have already been 40 student volunteers who have indicated their interest in being featured. Please share this opportunity with other Symposium students who might want to participate as well. The CAS organizers are posting one item a day on social media channels:




Finishing the Winter Semester

I want to applaud the efforts of our Department Heads and School Directors as they have worked tirelessly to address the needs of both our faculty and our students during this time of transition. As we all adjust to this new working and teaching environment, I encourage you to continue to keep lines of communication open to ensure everyone has the resources they need to successfully complete the semester.

As we enter the last few weeks of the Winter semester, I’d like to ask all instructors to review their course rosters to see if there are any students who have not participated or communicated in some way since the transition to fully online operations. Please email the name and EID of any student who falls into this category to the Dean of Students Office at [email protected] led by Ellen Gold. Her team along with other Student Affairs and Student Support staff will then reach out to these students to see if there are services and supports that would assist them in finishing the semester successfully or in taking other needed next steps. Instructors please be particularly attentive to the challenges this transition has caused for students and consider making more flexible incomplete rules available or allowing make up work resulting from housing or technology instability. Anything you can do is appreciated but know that we realize not all assignments can or should be dealt with flexibly. Please carefully consider student situations in making these evaluations.

It’s also important to exercise caution when communicating about student issues such as attendance, speculative communications about diagnoses of students, and so forth. Please refer to guidance provided by the Dean of Students found here:

As always, should you, any member of your staff, or any students you interact with experience Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms (cough, fever greater than 100.4, shortness of breath), please contact your health professional immediately by phone for guidance and notify the Dean of Students as soon as possible thereafter.

University-Wide Policy Adjustments

To accommodate the broad array of adjustments required to deal with the ongoing public health situation, several temporary modifications to academic policies have been enacted for this semester only. Students are encouraged to check with their academic advisor, the Financial Aid Office, Student Athletics Support Services, and the Military and Veterans Resource Center before making any changes to their course schedules, course grading options or the recording of their course evaluation. As each of us interacts with students, we should remind them to carefully consider their options and seek counsel appropriately. The extended deadlines in particular are designed to allow time for seeking information and advice.

Options for LBC Credit

The General Education Office has in place a means of assisting students in the event that planned activity to satisfy LBC graduation requirements is no longer available or accessible. General Education is ready to assist graduating seniors who have run into LBC requirement issues. They have a number of online options for the completion of LBC and are often able to help students identify LBC experiences that they have already completed in the educational and personal experiences. They have a good deal of experience working with students approaching graduation. Please direct students with questions or concerns to email their name and EID to [email protected] for assistance.

Extended Deadline for Individual Course Withdrawal

The deadline for individual course withdrawals is extended to April 20, 2020 for full term courses. This coincides with the last date for total withdrawal. For other parts of term, please see the dates and deadlines calendar on the Registrar’s website.

Pass/Fail Evaluation

Students may elect pass/fail evaluation if they are concerned about the negative impact of online delivery on their performance. The University will provide a greater latitude on limitations for pass/fail options.

The following applies to the Winter 2020 semester only:

  • Hours converted to pass/fail will be allowed to satisfy general education requirements
  • Hours converted to pass/fail will be allowed to satisfy major/minor requirements
  • Hours converted to pass/fail will not be counted toward the 6 course maximum
  • All students may choose the pass/fail option, not solely juniors and seniors
  • Students may choose the pass/fail option up until the last day for withdrawal from the courses April 20, 2020
  • In consultation with a Graduate Advisor or Program Coordinator, Graduate students may elect pass/fail evaluation

Waivers for Course Cancellations

In the event that a late start course has been canceled (i.e.: PEGN courses), under certain circumstances for graduating seniors, the credits may be waived as related to the 124 credit hour graduation requirement.

Academic Standing

Students’ academic standing will not be impacted based on their performance before the university returns to normal operations. Students on academic plans will not be dismissed based on their performance in Winter 2020.

Incomplete and In Progress Grades

When essential course objectives cannot be completed in an online environment under current circumstances and students’ progress toward graduation is not hindered, students may be assigned an incomplete until the objectives have been met. The University will relax the limitations for the assignment of an Incomplete. The parameters for assigning IP (in progress) grades will also be relaxed.

Modifications to Syllabi

Faculty may modify current syllabi. Faculty may make necessary adjustments to how they assess students’ performance, e.g. grading rubrics, assignments, exams, attendance. Synchronous online courses should not penalize the student based on their inability to attend at the scheduled time. Modifications to the syllabus are not subject to appeal.

Laboratory and Studio Courses

Where applicable and appropriate, the schedule and delivery (e.g. make up laboratory time/instruction) may be altered in a manner that is respectful of the burden placed upon students.

Degree Conferrals for April

We currently have set May 15 as the problem resolution date for April graduation candidates to get all paperwork in and be conferred for April. While we need to do reporting as of that date for financial aid purposes, we are making the following change:

Instead of denying students on May 16 who have not met their requirements, we notify students of their outstanding requirements and leave files open until June 15 for students to resolve any outstanding issues. In other words, if they applied for April graduation, they can resolve any issues by June 15 and still have an April degree conferral date. Heather will need to be notified of any student who is conferred after May 16 so she can update the National Student Clearinghouse.

Presuming the stay at home order is resolved by June 1, it will allow students to get transcripts from other institutions, complete incompletes from winter (or earlier), determine how to resolve any major/minor requirements, etc. If it goes longer than June 1, we'll revisit.

Updated Guidance for Student Worker Supervisors

College Work Study Student Employees - Note Updated Instructions!

The challenges posed by COVID-19 have left many of our federal work-study (FWS) students with reduced hours or no opportunity to work. The Office of Financial Aid has reached out to supervisors who may employ FWS student(s) to provide guidance on managing payments to FWS students.

Federal guidelines include a provision that allows universities to make FWS payments under certain limited circumstances. To ensure compliance with Title IV regulations, your assistance is critical in managing payments to FWS students.

Please adhere to the following instructions for the remaining three pay periods in the winter 2020 semester:

  • Submit time for your FWS students based on the number of hours they were scheduled to work before COVID-19 measures were adopted.
  • For FWS students who are working remotely or on-site, but with reduced hours, please include actual hours worked in addition to scheduled unworked hours.
  • For example, if a FWS student is scheduled to work 10 hours per week but only has 4 hours of remote work, include both the 4 hours worked and the 6 unworked scheduled hours for a total of 10 hours.
  • Please note that the individual reporting the hours must be different than the individual approving the hours. If this is an issue for you or if you have any questions, please email [email protected].

IMPORTANT NOTE: College Work Study students will need to open their timesheet before midnight tonight (Monday, April 6) in order for you to go in and enter hours (or remaining scheduled hours) on Tuesday. If they do not open their timesheets you will need to email payroll at [email protected] by Tuesday, April 7 at 5pm with the students' names, EID, position number, and the number of hours so that Payroll can enter the time accordingly.

Regular Student Employees (non work-study)

University Advising & Career Development Center (UACDC) has offered to serve as a clearinghouse for remote work and/or projects. If you have work or projects that can be done remotely but don’t have student employees to perform the tasks, please email information to [email protected]. And, if you have current hires (non work-study) who are willing/able to work remotely but don’t have remote work/tasks, please send their name and contact information to this email as well. We will attempt to match non work-study student employees with other departments who have remote needs within the University.

In addition, please be aware there are local/regional companies (essential services) who are hiring. UACDC has created a webpage with these opportunities which can be found here.

GA Assignments

In general, the duties performed by Graduate Assistants (GAs) and Doctoral Fellows (DFs) are project based, structured to promote the student's professional growth, and can be performed away from a campus setting.

  • Staff and Research GAs and DFs should perform their assignments remotely. They should continue to communicate with their immediate supervisors if they have questions about prioritizing tasks or how to access their needed documents.
  • For Research GAs and DFs in laboratory intensive disciplines, several ongoing research activities can be performed remotely: reading the literature, data analysis, calculations, and writing.
  • Teaching GAs should communicate with their faculty supervisors on how they will continue to support courses that are being taught in an alternate format during the next two weeks.

Preparing for Summer 2020

In order to assure as much academic continuity as possible, I’ve directed Deans to work with Departments and Schools to develop and implement plans for how to address any potential instructor or other employee absence due to COVID19 for Winter and Summer 2020 semesters. These planning processes should incorporate input processes where required and consider relevant instructional collective bargaining agreement language around sick leave and other leave provisions, substitution processes and consider how instructors might inform or prepare replacement instructors should they be unable to continue due to illness.

Summer 2020 Notes - Owing to the nature of supervision typically provided by instructors, all Independent Study, Dissertation, Comprehensive Exam, and Thesis course sections should be scheduled as ‘in person’ courses.

Faculty Development Center (FDC) and Center for E-Learning (CFE) Resources

The FDC and CFE stand at the ready to assist you with your online teaching needs.

Zoom from your Google Suite

With the recent integration of Zoom into EMU's Google Suite of apps, we've received some questions about synchronous, live-captioning meetings and classes. Like many other universities right now, we are investigating what options are available for this service (Zoom only offers third-party captioning at cost) that we can then rollout to users on campus. We hope to have an update on this very soon, and will provide further information as it becomes available.

Free Webinar Series – Effective Online Instruction

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), The American Council on Education (ACE), The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), The National Association of System Heads (NASH) and The Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) invite leaders, faculty and staff across higher education for focused and practical discussions on effective online instruction. Join nationally recognized experts in online teaching and learning for a series of virtual discussions on best practices in online teaching to ensure quality online instruction for student success.

  • Organizing your Online Courses, Thursday, April 9, 2 p.m. ET
  • Planning and Facilitating Quality Discussions, Tuesday, April 14, 2 p.m. ET
  • Recording Effective Microlectures, Friday, April 17, 2 p.m. ET
  • Engaging Students in Readings and Microlectures, Monday, April 20, 2 p.m. ET

These one-hour, live webinars will include Q&A with participants and will be recorded and hosted by ACUE. Additional open educational resources to support effective online teaching are being offered in conjunction with OpenStax. Implementation resources related to each topic are available from ACUE's Online Teaching Toolkit. Details and registration links can be found on the ACUE webinar page.

Faculty/Lecturer Teaching Evaluations

As you were notified last week, instructors were provided the option of administering evaluations this semester or not. We reached agreements with our union partners regarding teaching evaluations for Winter 2020. Any conducted evaluations will be conducted online. Faculty and Lecturers received information about how to opt-in and conduct the evaluations.

Regardless of whether the evaluation is administered, the inclusion of teaching evaluations from Winter 2020 in evaluation, tenure, and/or promotion materials will be at the Faculty/Lecturer’s sole discretion. The absence of Winter 2020 teaching evaluations will have no bearing on evaluation, tenure, and/or promotion processes.

The OPT-IN course evaluations are now loaded into the EvaluationKit system. The OPT-IN form is closed now.

The new surveys will go live tomorrow morning right after midnight and students will get emails with links to the eval forms. They'll also be able to get to them from inside Canvas via a menu item in the left-hand menu is each course shell. 15-week online courses that already had surveys set up actually went live this morning after midnight, per the normal schedule.

Canceled Conferences and Faculty Evaluation Portfolios

If you were scheduled to present at a conference that was canceled in light of the coronavirus, and still wish to reference it in your evaluation portfolio, here’s an interesting article from the American Psychological Association about creating an APA-style reference for a canceled conference presentation:

Faculty Research Fellowships/Sabbaticals

Due to the temporary limited access to campus mail, 2020-2021 FRF and Sabbatical Leave award letters were sent through campus email on or around April 1. Signed paper award letters will be issued soon after we return to our campus offices.

Outgoing Voice and Email Messaging for Campus Offices

In order to maintain an active presence with our students, staff, faculty, and external constituents, and to promote continued interaction in our communications, we suggest reviewing your outgoing messaging. Administrative offices, for example, should arrange to manage phone calls and inquiries either by forwarding calls to an external number that can be accessed by staff remotely, or change the outgoing voicemail message to indicate an alternative means of contact such as an email. Instructions for forwarding calls or changing the outgoing message can be found here.

If you and others are checking a general office email periodically for questions, we also recommend setting an “auto-reply” message on that account to indicate when the sender can reasonably expect a reply (e.g., 24-36 hours, “in order of priority,” etc.)

Building Access Restrictions

As you are likely aware, swipe card access to buildings has been suspended for all employees except those identified and approved by their supervisor as designated critical infrastructure employees. Any employee wishing to come to campus and access buildings is required under the Washtenaw County Order to be designated by their employer as meeting one of the criteria to be considered a critical infrastructure employee, to carry a letter summarizing that designation, to complete a health and exposure assessment each day they will be on campus and to limit their time and interactions while there. If you have not been designated on an ongoing basis, there are exceptions that permit employees to be designated and allowed access to offices in order to maintain live animals, chemicals or other life related or safety functions in laboratory settings, to conduct research and/or production activities to support efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19, and to maintain online instruction in K-12 and university environments. If you need to access your campus office or other space on campus for these reasons, please request that short term access through your supervisor (Department Head, Director) who will review it with the relevant AVP or Dean. They should send forward any recommended requests to the Provost’s Office for approval. Please allow a minimum of 24 hours lead time for processing these requests except in the case of emergencies.

Instructions for requesting access can be downloaded [PDF].

No Book Drop-Off at Halle Library

A reminder that although the Halle Library continues to serve the campus community with their online resources, the building itself is closed. Please keep library materials until the library reopens, including EMU, MelCat, and Interlibrary Loan items. Due dates will be automatically extended and fines will be waived. We ask your help to inform students about these procedural changes so that they do not put themselves at risk in order to avoid a fine!

Final Comments

We continue to monitor and evaluate guidance provided from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Washtenaw County Health Department and other local, state and federal agencies along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and many other professional organizations. I want to thank faculty, staff and administrators who have provided (and continue to provide) advice, templates and other feedback as we move through this process. The process of modifying courses, taking courses online and working remotely is by no means final or without unanswered questions still today. Each of us is trying to improve at every turn. We will provide ongoing updates to the campus on a variety of issues and answer questions as expeditiously as we can. Please continue to direct student questions and concerns that you cannot address to the Dean of Students and other questions to theProvost’s Office. Your patience, proactive, creative problem-solving and student focused thinking is greatly appreciated!

Please continue to observe public health advice around social distancing, regular hand washing and self-monitoring, and other issues. Should you, any member of your staff, or any students you interact with experience Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms (cough, fever greater than 100.4, shortness of breath), please contact your health professional immediately by phone for guidance and notify the Dean of Students as soon as possible thereafter. 

Our most current, up to date information, and past campus updates are available at the Eastern Michigan University Health Services website. Prior Provost updates may be found on the Provost's Wednesday Briefing webpage.